Written by Naturalist at The Inn at Honey Run, Rome Marinelli
We have a great trail system on property – if you’ve ever visited us, you’ve probably enjoyed it. As beautiful and peaceful as it may seem, it can be deceiving! I’m here to give you a few tips and pointers to help make your travel through our winding forest floor pathways as enjoyable as possible.
High pitched buzzing insects that for some reason want to nest in your ear canal and the literal blood thirsty mosquitos (only females) can really take the enjoyment out of an outdoor experience. For this reason, one should prepare accordingly by considering the use of insect repellent. If I apply any, I usually spray my boots, tops of socks, pant legs, and hat; while avoiding skin contact – but that’s just my preference. As pesky as they are, these persistent insects are an intriguing part of our beloved ecosystem – just something to keep in the back of your mind while you’re out and about.
Pests are not always buzzing or crawling, sometimes they’re photosynthesizing! Yes, I’m talking about plants. Some plants have evolved to develop incredible defenses. One plant that you may run into – and hopefully not in the literal sense – is Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). Trust me when I say they’ve named this plant appropriately. If you’ve ever had a run in – literally – with this plant, I have nothing new to tell you. However, if you haven’t yet experienced this plant, I’d like to save you from a temporarily painful moment.
Stinging nettle is a common woodland plant standing erect with large dark green, spade-shaped, saw-toothed leaves along what appears to be a hairy unbranched stem. Those bristly hairs contain a small toxin that irritates the skin – like no other – when contact is made. The tiny hairs break off into your skin leaving you with an intense burning and itching sensation. This feeling will resolve itself in a few minutes but could last longer. Relief can be found in the juices of a jewelweed stem – which always seem to be nearby. Stinging nettle is prevalent along some parts of our trail, but our team works hard to manage the trail and maintain an assured distance for maximum enjoyment. U. dioica is the host plant for the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) and the Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) – so you can’t stay mad with this plant. For more information on this plant, google search its botanical name – “Urtica dioica.”
My last piece of advise is this – when navigating our trails, be mindful of the pathway itself. Our team checks the trails daily to make sure the path is clear of any debris. Unfortunately, the one thing we cannot remove is wet/muddy spots. While we are working to divert water away from the trails, you may likely run into the occasional muddy section. Often this mud is contained to the lower sloped portion of the path which means the higher elevated side of the path will either be dry or drier. One way to know is to look for our tire tracks. A set of tracks will mean to be caution as the path is likely a bit muddy. One row of tracks (on one side of the path but not the other) means that the side with tracks is muddier/wetter and you can confidently walk on the opposite side.
I hope these few tips help to make your outdoor adventures more enjoyable!
Until next time,